RNLI apologises after staff complain of sexism and bullying

03 Jul 2023 News

RNLI has apologised after national news outlets reported instances of sexism and bullying at the charity.

The Times reported that it had seen internal staff and volunteer surveys from 2021 and 2022, in which some staff reported experiencing bullying, misogyny and sexism in the workplace. 

It quoted one respondent as saying RNLI “is a sexist charity when it comes to how you are treated at work” and that she felt discriminated against because of her sex. 

The BBC, which has also seen the documents, reported that one respondent said they “have not once felt like the RNLI supports women or minorities” and that they would not recommend the charity as an employer. 

Sue Barnes, the RNLI’s people director, said that the charity is “sorry to our volunteers and staff who have faced behaviours and actions that no one should have to tolerate” and that there is “no place for misogynistic, sexist, and non-inclusive behaviours” at the charity. 

‘We are sorry’

Barnes said: “We are sorry to our volunteers and staff who have faced behaviours and actions that no one should have to tolerate. There is no place for misogynistic, sexist, and non-inclusive behaviours at the RNLI and we are committed to taking action and tackling such behaviour.

“The RNLI takes allegations and concerns raised by volunteers and staff very seriously and has a process in place to ensure these are heard and investigated. We have a code of conduct which outlines the behaviours and values which we expect our staff and volunteers to adhere to. Where these standards fall short, we will act.

“We encourage people to call out unacceptable behaviours and are committed to investigating and taking action where behaviour falls below the standards we expect. We have a range of methods that our people can use to report unacceptable behaviour, including a whistleblowing reporting line hosted by a third party.

“We know we have more work to do to ensure we become the truly inclusive lifesaving charity we strive to be. This is the right thing to do and is a key commitment for the RNLI.”

RNLI said there are a number of places where staff or volunteers can raise grievances. These included by talking to their volunteer or line manager, the charity’s people networks, its inclusion and diversity manager or safeguarding team. 

The charity said its female crew figures have increased year-on-year from 11% women in 2020 to 12.8% as of 31 March 2023. 

RNLI appointed its first permanent female chair this year, Janet Legrand. 

Its median gender pay gap is 1.9% in favour of men, meaning women earn 98p for every £1 men do. 

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